A Single Man

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Just get through the goddamn day.
George Falconer

A Single Man is a 1964 novel written by Christopher Isherwood, who also wrote Goodbye to Berlin, the source material of Cabaret. In 2009, Tom Ford directed and co-wrote the film version, starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore.

The eponymous single man is George Falconer, a middle-aged British college professor who lives in Los Angeles. His closest friend is Charlotte, and his secret lover is Jim. Then, sometime in early 1962, Jim dies unexpectedly in a car crash. After that, George must re-evaluate his purpose in life as he tries to get through a single day.


Tropes used in A Single Man include:
  • Ambiguously Gay: Kenny.
  • Book Ends: The film begins with a shot of Jim's dead body lying in the snow, being approached by an out of place George dressed in a crisp black suit. George lies down and gives Jim a kiss and then moves away. the film ends with Jim in the same sort of black suit, walking into the room where George lies, dying, and giving him a kiss, before leaving. it is impossible for either man to see the others death. as George is across the country when Jim dies, and Jim has been dead for months by the time George dies., which is what makes this example of Book Ends memorable, heartwarming and depressing all in one
  • Bury Your Gays
  • Chekhov's Gun: Charley asks George if he's OK after that heart-attack thing he had. Which, it transpires, he isn't
    • Did anyone else think the second missing dog was also a Chekhov's Gun?
    • Was the dog George meets later on supposed to be the missing dog? This troper's friends couldn't decide. (Is it in the book?)
    • Nope, not in the book; that was probably just meant to be a sweet/sad moment of loss and remembering.
  • Death by Despair: Possibly. Rather than a Diabolus Ex Machina, it seems likely that the heart condition that kills George was aggravated - if not outright caused - by his grief over Jim's death. It happens.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Many examples, but the biggest is probably George carrying a gun, though unloaded, in his briefcase at both an educational facility and inside a bank. A person doing that in this day and age, whether or not they had any plans to hurt or rob anyone, would be in very hot water if discovered. Another possible example is Kenny asking if George is going to take a shower, too. There's a strong implication Kenny means the two of them taking it together. George refuses due to his attraction to Kenny, and the audience isn't sure what Kenny's motive for asking is. However, since they did go swimming naked together, there's a possibility that men taking showers together was considered perfectly platonic and non-taboo.
  • Doing It for the Art: Tom Ford self-financed the film version, and even had to personally ask Colin Firth to accept the part.
  • Driven to Suicide
  • Fake American: Matthew Goode and Nicholas Hoult, who are both English.
  • Fake Brit: Julianne Moore is American. Apparently she listened to very early Julie Christie for the sixties feel and mixed it up with modern British party girls to get her characters way of speaking.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Charlotte and George.
  • No Bisexuals: Interestingly averted. After George admits he's slept with Charlotte in the past, Jim asks him why he's with him if he sleeps with women. George doesn't say that it was experimentation or a mistake, he just says that even though he sleeps with women he only falls in love with men, implying he may actually be attracted to women. His fixation on his secretary's beauty, with all the close-ups of her eyes and hair, may have been a small nod to this.
    • Kenny might be an example, too. He and George have a conversation where he talks about how, in the past, he slept with Lois, a female friend. It wasn't a one-time thing, but they eventually decided they were better off as just friends. Of course, Kenny's sexuality is played very ambiguously, making it where the audience can only guess whether he's bisexual, gay, straight, or something else entirely.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: It often feels as if George and Kenny are invoking this trope, though it's open to interpretation. It does make for some interesting scenes where George suspects Kenny has ulterior motives and tries to figure things out without explicitly revealing his own secrets. A clearer version of this trope appears when Jim and George are first starting their relationship; George says Jim isn't ready for 'life in a glass house', meaning both his house which hosts abundant windows and having to deal with the societal need to keep homosexual relationships secret. Jim's response of, 'Drapes,' is both an solution to the house bit and a way of saying he judges himself ready.
  • Oscar Bait
  • Race Lift: Lois was Japanese-American in the book. The script deliberately called for a white, blonde actress to play the part. For a non-speaking part during two scenes, mind you, so that even the possible defense of not being able to find a passable Asian-American actress wouldn't hold water.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Whether the crush applies or not is ambiguous, but Kenny finding out George's address from the school secretary, wandering around George's neighbourhood in an attempt to run into him, and implying he's been watching George out-of-class while George was unaware of his presence covers the stalker aspect.
  • The Oner: the phone-call scene.
  • Uptight Loves Wild
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: A lot of the camera work focuses on eyes.
  • What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: The fantasies of George drowning.